As the only woman in Puerto Rico’s gubernatorial race, Alexandra Lúgaro has been one of the most significant contributing factors in youth’s increased involvement in politics on the Island.
In an attempt to make a change in the antiquated political system that has reigned for decades, her progressive platform has sparked a widespread conversation even among those who traditionally considered themselves non-voters.
To understand the magnitude of her impact as a female candidate, let’s look at the statistics: women in Puerto Rico currently represent only 12% of all elected officials, even though they make up 54% of the island’s population.
Lúgaro made history in 2016 as the Island’s first female independent candidate in history. Announcing her candidacy in 2015 instantly set her apart due to her support of topics such as the legalization of marihuana, same-sex marriage, educational reform, and her neutrality on the otherwise polarizing issue of the territorial status of the Island.
Her revolutionary candidacy resulted in an unprecedented percentage of votes for an independent candidate, coming in third place in the polls with 11.3% of the total votes. As a young lawyer, activist, and an outspoken educational advocate, she enamored a good chunk of the voting population by embodying the possibility of dismantling the establishment.
“What is disruptive about this campaign is that it has defied the old political models; it has proved that people don’t trust in the traditional models,” she said in an interview with Refinery29.
This election cycle, she announced she would be running for governor under the new party, Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (Citizen’s Victory Movement). Through this political platform, they have committed to three key elements they consider urgent: rescuing public institutions, social, economic, environmental, and fiscal reconstruction, and decolonization. As a movement composed of citizens with different backgrounds and points of view, they celebrate diversity and difference.
Alongside her distinctive perspective on approaching modern politics, the way she has built up her base and campaign has distinguished her as a candidate. Through Facebook live streams, focused Instagram campaigns, and participating in virtual youth-led forums, not only has she defied the standards of old-fashioned campaigning, but she’s made herself more accessible to potential voters.
With an understanding that younger generations will eventually be the ones to have the most influence on voter turnouts, she’s crafted her following from the ground up. This has resulted in an online following that has amassed over 800,000 people across all her platforms.
“In a moment where the Island is going through a deep economic crisis, the parties are still using millions in public funds [to finance their campaigns.] I also wanted to prove that you could do more with less.”
However, it’s no surprise that as the only woman on the ballot, she’s had to put up a fight against her male counterparts in the race.
During her 2016 candidacy, she was met with criticism, mainly due to her appearance. She explained, “that’s the product of a society that is machista and patriarchal. And it’s not only in politics; it’s the media as well. Some [reporters] would ask me, ‘And why did you want to be governor and not a model?’ ‘Do you use swimsuits?’ ‘What was the last time you cried?’ And I reply to those reporters, ‘Do you ask the same to the male candidates who come here?’’
In 2020, she has been met with the same kind of questioning during debates and increased scrutiny over her personal life. Most recently, local entertainment icon La Comay resurfaced an old picture of Lúgaro’s daughter of a family outing at the beach in an attempt to question her morality as a mother and inappropriately sexualized the image of the minor.
In an emotional statement delivered through Facebook live and different media outlets, she fought back alongside her partner, Manuel Natal, who is running his own campaign for mayor of the capital, San Juan. This resulted in an outpouring of support from her following and reignited campaigns advocating for the cancellation of La Comay.
Alexandra Lúgaro’s candidacy has served as a subtle yet powerful indication that soon, candidates’ ideological and professed outlooks on Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the United States will no longer be the driving force behind voters’ rationale on who to vote for.
Proposed solutions to the Island’s most pressing problems are starting to make the forefront of national dialogues, and it’s due in great part to her engagement with potential voters. All the while, she’s challenging stereotypes, pushing back, and denouncing destructive patriarchal patterns to pave the way for future generations of women with dreams and aspirations to become leaders of their country.